[Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway]
If you remember my review of "Shutter Island", I may have let you know that if you were a Scoreses fan, that film was not your typical fare from that director. Of course, the same does not apply to Tim Burton films. If you are a fan, then, by all means, go see his latest work.
SYNOPSIS: Alice has grown up with nightmares of a place with talking animals, queens and edibles that allow you to become big or small. Now a young adult on the day of a lord's proposal to her, she runs away after a waist-coated rabbit, falling through the rabbit hole and into Underland.
With all of the new tricks of movie-making at his disposal, Tim adds his Burtonesque touches to the classic Lewis Carroll tales of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass". These stories have been made many times, into movies, spin-off books, comics, Sci-Fi Originals, and more. There is a blend to the film that takes the groundwork of Carroll and adds additional character development and some of the new ideas already seen in more recent tellings of the Alice story.
I have always been partial to Norman McLeod's 1933 version of the story. As a child on a late Saturday morning, I watched the black and white Alice wander through a grotesque, magical land, transfixed by the sheer lunacy of it all. I gather watching this film as a 7-year old would be the equivalent of being stoned as a teenager. I only have the former as a tangible gage, of course. Burton's version, though, is more spectacle than substance (or substance abuse).
As he does so well in all of work, Tim Burton does not disappoint our optic sense. He is no stranger to strange environments, from "Edward Scissorhands" to "Sleepy Hollow" to "The Corpse Bride". His latest film is in gorgeous color, the human characters in realistic anatomical distortion, the animal characters stylized to the point of absurdity. All of these traits are perfect, especially if you are adapting a Wonderland story. But as the 1933 film captured my imagination as a child, the 2010 version can only warmed me as simple entertainment. I am definitely not jaded (see exhibit A for "Avatar") and am not trying to lessen the depth of what Burton has brought to the screen, but I think Burton's dementia may be becoming too mainstream.
Speaking of mainstream, that can especially be said for Johnny Depp. Once the source of much worry by studio executives, he is now the Golden Goose. His portrayal of the Mad Hatter is definitely mad, but frustrated instead of insane. The story gives us the "why" of his madness, and it fits. The other big names in the film, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, bring to their regal roles new quirkiness. Mia Wasikowska fits the Alice namesake well and, in some regards, upstages the other Wonderlanders with her subtle, sane direction. But even wth all of this, my personal favorite was the Cheshire Cat... but who can resist a smiling feline who evaporates into air and has a "what will be, will be" attitude.
The film is worth a look if you a Burton fan, and the kids may get a kick out of it for its talking furry hares and rabbits, and sword-wielding mice. But on my journey back down the rabbit hole, drinking the potion makes you tiny, eating the cake makes you tall, and believing the advertising makes your wallet lighter.
One final note, if you don't "need" to see the movie in 3D, go ahead and save yourself a couple of bucks!
Worth: Matinee or DVD